WATERVILLE — It was a like a scene out of an Edward Hopper painting, the snow falling outside the Paul J. Schupf Art Center downtown, all lit up inside, with children and adults milling about, creating art projects and sipping hot chocolate drinks at tables by a glass curtain overlooking the city square.

Saturday was the day many had long been anticipating: the grand opening of the $18 million center that brings together film, art and the performing arts all under one roof, accessible to all.

A preview event was held Friday and included an address by Colby College President David Greene.

“It is amazing,” Victoria Neason of Augusta said Saturday of the center. “The space is huge and airy and I’m excited.”

She and Liam Wallace, also of Augusta, were checking out three new, second-floor cinemas showing holiday features, including “The Muppet Christmas Carol” and “Miracle on 34th Street.”

A rolled out red carpet on the floor ran along a row of giant windows overlooking snowy Main Street, offering a new perspective of businesses such as Day’s Jewelers, Lion’s Den Tavern, The Jewel of India and The Record Connection across the street.


Attendants at a concession stand were selling candy and drinks and offering free popcorn for movie-goers.

“I just think it’s a really cool addition to downtown and what Waterville has to offer in the downtown area,” Wallace said of the new center.

Children and parents create arts and crafts Saturday at the Paul J. Schupf Arts Center during the “Joy to the Ville” event in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

Daylong events featured the fifth annual “Joy to the Ville” celebration hosted by Waterville Creates, the umbrella organization of Waterville Opera House, Maine Film Center and Ticonic Gallery + Studios, with activities including clay wheel throwing demonstrations, holiday card making, 3D printing displays, art-in-a-box-making and joyful dance. Sunrise Bagel, a shop on Water Street, was offering lots of sweets.

Bixby Chocolate Café, owned by Kate McAleer, featured every chocolate offering imaginable — cake, brownies, cookies, candy, chocolates and liquid ganache, as well as coffee. The cafe overlooks Castonguay Square, where a giant evergreen was strung with colored lights.

Just inside the main floor entrance, Waterville Creates’ education and outreach manager, Serena Sanborn, was greeting visitors. She was full of emotion, remarking on the planning and hard work of so many people that led to Saturday’s opening.

“I’m just happy,” she said. “Happy tears. This is what I want to do — just make sure that this community can thrive — and having all this for free is so awesome. It’s amazing to see the groundbreaking and everything coming to fruition. The place is alive with people.”


Children were sitting at tables armed with paper, envelopes, colored pencils and other materials for creating holiday cards.

Amelie van der Meer, 11, of Waterville, was crafting a scene with Christmas decorations, a snowman and stickers.

“It’s really nice to make cards and them give them to people and see their faces,” she said.

Her sister, Sofie, 8, created a scene with snowmen in a field.

The girls had made a beeline for the card-making tables when they got there, so they had not yet seen everything else the center had to offer, according to their mother, Johanna van Oers. She said the family had come to the U.S. 15 years ago from the Netherlands and the children have been actively involved in Waterville Creates.

“This is just a great, great asset to Waterville, and just to have everything together under one roof is helpful too,” van Oers said. “We are big fans of the Colby Museum (of Art) as well and we participate in their educational programs.”


Digital art works from Light on Main Street digital art exhibit are shown on the wall at the Paul J. Schupf Arts Center during the “Joy to the Ville” event Saturday in Waterville. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

The Joan Dignam Schmaltz Gallery of Art, a satellite arm of the Colby Museum at the Schupf Center, was  featuring an exhibit called “Light on Main Street.” The Ticonic Studio featured “Common Threads,” a community art project.

At the Ed Harris box office on the main floor, public service attendant Zach Wallace was helping to direct patrons to various events and activities. He said he had worked at Railroad Square Cinema about seven years and the new, larger space and box office offering tickets to all events inside took some getting used to but he has acclimated well.

“I feel like I’m at home now,” he said.

Mike Perreault, executive director of the Maine Film Center, touted a program, “A New Home for the Holidays,” which extends to Dec. 23 and offers free admission to films being shown.

“It’s just so wonderful to see all these families here today, having all kinds of different arts experiences in the same place,” Perreault said.

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